Medical

Bacteria-killing glass could prevent urinary tract infections

Bacteria-killing glass could p...
Rods of the material are formed by pouring molten glass into molds
Rods of the material are formed by pouring molten glass into molds
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Rods of the material are formed by pouring molten glass into molds
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Rods of the material are formed by pouring molten glass into molds
One of the rods (center) along with the zinc oxide
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One of the rods (center) along with the zinc oxide

According to scientists at Britain's Aston University, urinary tract infections caused by catheters make up about 35 percent of all healthcare-associated infections in the UK. That number could soon drop dramatically, however, thanks to the use of special antimicrobial glass.

A typical catheter-based urine-collection system consists of a bag that is linked to the patient's bladder via an inserted flexible tube – that tube is the actual catheter. Problems occur when bacteria multiply within the filled bag, subsequently making their way up the tube and into the bladder. The resulting urinary tract infection (UTI) can be very difficult to treat using antibiotics, sometimes even leading to septicemia.

With an eye toward keeping this from happening, Aston researchers started by producing rods made of phosphate glass that was coated with trace amounts of zinc oxide – the latter is known for its antibacterial qualities. Those rods were then sliced into small glass discs, which were subsequently placed in Petri dishes containing bacteria.

One of the rods (center) along with the zinc oxide
One of the rods (center) along with the zinc oxide

As the zinc oxide slowly dissolved out of the glass, it completely eradicated all E. coli bacteria and significantly reduced populations of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, within a 24-hour period. Additionally, the zinc oxide was shown to not have any harmful effect on the cells that make up the lining of the bladder.

It is now hoped that cartridges containing the treated glass could be inserted in catheter tubes, killing harmful bacteria while still allowing urine to pass through.

"This is great news for patients requiring catheters, who would be at a much-reduced risk of contracting a potentially life-threatening UTI during a hospital stay," says lead scientist, Dr. Richard Martin. "It is also good for healthcare systems, which could save millions in the costs associated with these infections."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Materials Science & Engineering C.

Source: Aston University

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